If you're researching psychopathy, sociopathy, and narcissism, chances are, you've also come across this term called codependency. So what exactly is codependency? From Mental Health America:
Whether you're currently in the midst of an abusive relationship or just getting out of one, most of these things probably sound very familiar. So the natural course of thinking is that you might be codependent, and that's why you ended up in this bad relationship to begin with.
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
First things first. There is nothing "evil" or "pathological" about being codependent. These are learned behaviors that can be unlearned. Whether it came from a toxic family situation or a string of bad relationships, there shouldn't be any stigma around codependency. If you've exhibited patterns of these behaviors in the past, there are a million resources out there to help with building boundaries, self-esteem, and independence.
But if you're exhibiting these behaviors after one bad relationship, I would strongly urge you to refrain from labeling yourself (or allowing someone else to label you) codependent. Psychopaths manufacture desperation, desire, jealousy, dependence, addiction, and anxiety. It's what they do. So if you're feeling those things after a relationship with a psychopath, that was the intended result.
It's sort of like diagnosing yourself with clinical depression after the death of a loved one. Yes, your depression is very real and probably meets all of the symptoms of clinical depression, but it's also a universal part of the grieving process—an anomaly. I hope that survivors of psychopathic abuse also take the time to work through their own unique stages of grief, before making any sweeping decisions about their mental health.
And here's the bottom line that @Indie917, @Outoftheashes, and @SearchingForSunshine all articulated so well in our discussions about this topic: regardless of whether you're codependent, insecure, naive, vulnerable, or a perfectly healthy human being, abuse and exploitation are always wrong. Nobody deserves to be abused. Abusers toss around the word "codependency" because it unloads all of the blame onto their victim. But being codependent does not somehow make the abuse more acceptable, just like leaving your car unlocked does not mean you deserve to have your car stolen.
Victim blamers love to scream about how you'll never recover, grow, and heal if you don't "accept the blame" for your role in the dynamic (because it takes two to tango and blah blah blah). But here's a neat concept: it's perfectly possible to recover, grow, and heal without accepting the blame for someone else's horrendous behavior. That's how we build self-respect and boundaries. That's how we learn to stop absorbing someone else's projection, excuses, and minimization of abuse.
We all come from unique pasts, relationships, and experiences. In that respect, our recovery processes will also be unique. So if you see someone else introspecting about codependency, that doesn't automatically mean you're codependent. Likewise, someone with codependency need not look at someone with a healthy past and feel hopeless about their own recovery. It is never too late or too early to make big changes.
What I'm trying to say is that despite our differences, we're all working together towards the same goal here.
Codependency & Victim Blaming: Why Abuse Is Always Wrong
Regardless of whether you're codependent, insecure, naive, vulnerable, or a perfectly healthy human being, abuse and exploitation are always wrong.
Article Author: Peace